Saturday, November 26, 2011

Plaster Preparation

The kitchen looks more and more finished as each day comes to a close. Mike installed the butcher block countertop below the mini-bay window yesterday, and we have the countertops and backsplash covered with concrete backerboard and ready for tile. The orange chair sits where the gas oven will eventually go.

There is a new shelving element built into the arch entranceway into the kitchen. Right now, the shelves are standard plywood and there is a base coat of plaster on the walls of the cubbies. It will be finished with red oak shelves and lime plaster cubby walls.

It is getting to be time to apply finish plasters to the interior of the building, so today we experimented with a whole bunch of different plaster tests, using clay, lime, sand, straw, and wheat paste. We are interested in several different plaster qualities: ease of application, durability, scratch-resistantance, dusting (avoiding dusting), beauty, and low-cost (all of them are pretty darn cheap, but clay is free, and wheat paste and straw are both very inexpensive). Here are some of the tests:

Here is the setup for making wheat paste:

The white flour is dissolved in cold water, while the rest of the water boils on the stove. Once a rolling boil is achieved, the flour/water mix is added slowly into the pot, while being mixed with the paddle mixer on the drill. The mixture begins to thicken until it turns almost translucent, which is when it can be removed from the heat; it's ready to use once cool. It takes just a tiny bit of wheat paste to make a plaster more sticky and increase durability. A recipe for wheat paste.

It's a good ideas to spray down the dry walls with water before applying a new plaster. Otherwise, the base coat of plaster will suck all of the moisture out of the finish layer, and the finish layer will have a much greater chance of cracking. I just recently bought one of these "chemical sprayers" from Home Depot for under $10 - it's operated by hand pump, and sprays a perfect mist (a lot easier than a spray bottle, and simpler than trying to snake a hose into the building). Mike demonstrates its use:

I took care of Leo for a while today, giving Danielle a chance to jump on some plastering and make up some of her own mixes. 

Leo is becoming quite a proficient sitter and stander (with help). He's gotten noticeably stronger over the past week, and he seems to really like these new positions! He spent the day outdoors on the worksite with Mike, Danielle, and I.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A new roof, some new color.

It was a drizzly, wet day today, and we were able to use the newly-dry deck as our power tool zone - what a luxury!

Non-Building Life

Included in my non-building life is, of course, building. Danielle, Leo, and I went to a fundraising event at Circle Acres a couple Saturdays ago. Here, Mike and I are helping our friend Gray apply a mixture of "daub" to the chicken wire "wattle" on the house he's building (if you're curious, research "wattle-and-daub" and you'll find a lot of cool stuff). Gray came back to Durham the following weekend to take a big part in painting the house here. He was a professional painter at one point of his life.

This is for Jeremy more than anyone else. Sweet potatoes from the little neglected garden back behind the house! I still haven't harvested them all. They were delicious. I wish you could have enjoyed a taste, Jeremy.

Family! Here's a good capture of how pensive Leo can be:

We got quite a show of color this past weekend, especially from this one Japanese Maple behind our cottage:

Danielle with her new baby-wearing wrap. We've tried a couple different wraps so far, and this is by far her favorite because it allows her to put Leo on her back! So she can start doing things again :)

Leo didn't want to hold still for this one, but you can sort of make out that he's sporting his "born at home" shirt that the midwives left for him.

Inside Stuff

I am so far behind in my posts (due to a current shortage of both time and internet access) that there is just no catching up in a proper manner. Instead, here is a bunch of everything:

The bathroom gets closer and closer to being finished.... The vanity light is in. Below it, the two horizontal pieces of wood are simply for attaching the mirror that Jeremy is going to build in Philadelphia, and bring down here.

The piece of plywood below the mirror zone is the first step in preparations for a tile backsplash for the vanity.

Tomato red tile! After the tile is grouted, then the last major step in completing the bathroom is to trowel a finish plaster onto all of the walls.

Here is the oven vent hood, with a cob-inspired cookbook shelf above it. The shelf will be made of a nice piece of finished red oak plywood, and the sides will be plastered with whatever finish coat the walls receive.

Today, we started to prepare the countertops for the tile job in the kitchen. There will be an in-your-face yellow (mustard) backsplash, and inoffensive tan counter tiles.

A layer of "thin-set" mortar goes on top of the plywood to start things off...

Concrete backerboard is then screwed on over this bed of thin-set. Soon there will be another layer of thin-set, into which the tile will be placed.

Mike was working on the bay sink area, getting it up to the proper height for tile:

And some random interior shots...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Concrete Shower Progress... and more first.

The bathroom light/vent fan casts a warm glow on the tongue-and-groove ceiling.

I decided that I wanted to hard-wire in a vanity light, and so I got to experiment with cutting through the lime plaster/earthen plaster/ metal lath, and doing some retro-fit wiring. The top hole is for the light box, the middle hole is where I had to drill a hole through a wall stud to get the cable through, and the third hole is where the switch is to be installed. I was able to then fish the wires behind the plaster to get from one hole to the next, to avoid cutting away more of the finished wall.

I found it very easy to cut through the lime plaster neatly with a flathead screwdriver.

The light is now functional and ready to be mounted properly on the wall, but I'm waiting for the brown patch plaster to dry. Soon the bathroom walls will get the finish coat of plaster!

Here's Jeremy's vanity with the vessel sink installed.

Mike working on preparing the base cabinets for a future tile countertop. Here he goes the extra mile to knock a shim under the edge of the cabinet to level it.

Installing the metal lath:

And plastering over with the scratch coat of plaster:

The concrete shower has been quite a project. These photos are from the day after Mike and I labored for 8 hours straight, troweling yellow stucco around all of the sculptural details to complete the final layer of the shower walls:

You'll notice in the photo above that the bench and floor are not finished. This is because we wanted to do them in a different color (which turned out to be a deep purple). Here is the red and black pigments that I bought to add to the white Portland cement:

Dry-mixing the pigments and cement. The other ingredients that were then added were water and sand.

And here is the finished floor/bench stucco (and a beautiful stone that we mortared in): It's looking quite shiny and very purple in the photo because it is fresh. It will dry to be less shiny and more of a faded purple.

Now all the shower needs is a coat of sealant over the concrete (we're looking for the right product that is both non-toxic and functional), and of course a curtain!

Leo and Danielle making opposite-facing, similar expressions:

A little snuggler, he is.